Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ★★★★

MARCH.
MANKIND IS INTRODUCED TO BATMAN v SUPERMAN.

I walk out of one of my most anticipated films in years with incredibly mixed emotions. I consider a few pros and cons, but in its complete form, I'm at a loss. What I know, without any doubt? I don't want to face it again anytime soon. I've been drained by the experience. I need time.

4 MONTHS LATER.
THE ULTIMATE EDITION.

Zack Snyder recalibrates his ambitious but unrefined film into a three-hour epic; an engrossing journey into darker corners of comic book and mythological storytelling. For better or worse, Batman v Superman doesn't aim for a traditionally heroic take on the DC lore. It broods, it stomps, it thrashes about. Not to say it's joyless; there's tinges of wry humour, with warmth and hope emerging from the film as it progresses. But Snyder's world is a pretty harsh one. An echo of he how understands and views our own, perhaps.

Bruce Wayne goes to war with Clark Kent. Bruce, slipping from the edge of humanity, fuels 20 years of a gruelling crime-fighting career into paranoia of an alien. Clark, weighed down by polarising responses to his actions, questions the morality and authority of a vigilante. The separate investigations of each man are well-balanced and distinct. It's not always subtle, but the new cut explores the ideologies and motivations of its two central characters far better than before. Their titular collision is less sudden, and far more evolutionary.

I develop my own understandings on these interpretations of the characters; while they're not my preferred versions, I now enjoy them within this particular narrative. Ben Affleck's performance is definitely the strongest. Pain seeps through his skin, anger through his veins, guilt and isolation through his heart. His Batman is a ruthless one, and I remember struggling with that initially, but this time, it’s improved. Henry Cavill is a really fine Superman, though the characterisation here doesn't always allow Cavill to fulfil his full potential. Gal Gadot makes for a charismatic and skilled Wonder Woman (still wish her plot involvement was a little different), and there's typically great supporting acts from Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne and Jeremy Irons. Jesse Eisenberg's manic Lex Luthor remains conflicting, but there's a lot of life in the performance.

Much of the film is Snyder - along with writers Chris Terrio and David Goyer - establishing the many players, laying out the many puzzle pieces. Despite the seemingly mammoth runtime, it's excellently paced; increased breathing room has made this a far more focused film. The mostly superb buildup of the first two acts culminates in a blistering, action-heavy finale. Sometimes the violence and destruction goes overboard, but at least there's weight behind the punches, in terms thematics, characterisation and plot.

Through his sprawling narrative, Snyder scatters anomalies: nightmares, visions, delusions. They’re unquestionably odd, and sometimes make the characters feel something other heroic. Sometimes they don't seem like the icons that we've championed for 75 years. They're flawed. They're just like people.

But if all that gets tiresome, the movie delivers enjoyment in many other places. Larry Fong's cinematography is striking and frequently gorgeous; definitely an element I under appreciated on first viewing. Watching this at home is absolutely nothing compared to IMAX, but the spectacle remains in tact. Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL's score sways from thundering to soaring, and while it's neither man's strongest work, it establishes the tone in a fantastic way. And Dawn of Justice has some insanely evocative dialogue; there's very little in the way of Man of Steel's kinda clunky one-liners.

There remain elements that I will never love (sometimes it's just too bleak); no Ultimate Edition was going to fix that. But thanks to this extended viewing, they step down from major complaints to minor ones. I was utterly compelled the entire time, appreciating touches I failed to recognise previously, comprehending the plot more effectively. Batman v Superman is a Zack Snyder picture through and through, and that's not ideal for everyone. It's raw. Ferocious. Plain weird, frankly. But the film is (probably) the boldest endeavour of superhero cinema in years.

And I'm glad to finally say that I really, really like it.

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